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Recommendations for a Value for Money (VfM) review of the NLWA’s Edmonton incinerator replacement project

Recommendations for a Value for Money (VfM) review of the NLWA’s Edmonton incinerator replacement project (May 2020).

Despite lower than anticipated volumes of waste arising, the NLWA is progressing plans to replace the existing Edmonton incinerator with an even larger incinerator that would be capable of processing 700,000 tonnes of material each year. Residents and others have raised concerns about the Edmonton incinerator rebuild scheme, which is part of the NLWA’s North London Heat and Power Project (NLHPP).

In response to many of the fundamental changes that have occurred in the decade since the NLWA first came up with the North London Heat and Power Project plan to rebuild the Edmonton incinerator, Stop the Edmonton Incinerator Now commissioned this study to begin to identify some of the factors that would need to be considered in any exploration of the question about whether or not the North London Heat and Power Project, in its current form, would be expected to provide Value for Money for residents of North London.

Given the scale of the Edmonton incinerator rebuild project and the many significant changes that have arisen since the project was first proposed, it would be prudent for a comprehensive Value for Money (VfM) review to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.

The following recommendations should inform the scope and approach to be taken with respect to any meaningful VfM review of the Edmonton incinerator rebuild project:

  • RECOMMENDATION #1: Given the growing discrepancy between forecast and actual waste arisings, and taking account of the trends between 2013/14 and 2018/19, there is a need for a fundamental review of forecast waste arisings in North London. This review should consider the latest waste data as well as current and anticipated local and national economic, legislative, social and policy drivers that could reduce overall and residual waste arisings, alongside assessing risks associated with incineration overcapacity and stranded assets.
  • RECOMMENDATION #2: Competition for feedstock could undermine the business case for a replacement Edmonton incinerator. As such, there is a need to assess current and anticipated residual waste treatment capacity in and around London in light of increases in capacity, the potential for even further increases in capacity in the near future, and the potential for increased recycling and other factors to give rise to spare capacity at existing and emerging facilities, and increased competition for feedstock that could lower anticipated gate fees

The VfM review should assess and quantify potential cost increases associated with:

  • RECOMMENDATION #3: Brexit, e.g. as the result of increased labour costs and difficulties recruiting skilled and semi-skilled workers and the imposition of tariffs and other trade barriers that in turn could push up the cost of construction materials and components.
  • RECOMMENDATION #4: Unfavourable changes in currency exchange rates.
  • RECOMMENDATION #5: Covid-19.
  • RECOMMENDATION #6: Inclusion of incineration within an incineration tax, carbon emissions tax and/or emissions trading scheme.
  • RECOMMENDATION #7: Potential regulatory changes, e.g. a requirement to remove recyclates prior to incineration, requirements to increase the range of materials collected at the kerbside, the introduction of stricter emissions controls, and/or increased regulation of District Heating Schemes.

Furthermore, the VfM review should consider:

  • RECOMMENDATION #8: The cost of treating North London’s residual waste through a combination of methods other than incineration.
  • RECOMMENDATION #9: The impact of investing in preventing material from entering the residual waste stream.
  • RECOMMENDATION #10: The wider benefits of moving away from incineration and towards a low-carbon circular zero waste economy; the indirect costs and burdens of incineration; and the need for any review to be credible in the eyes of the community.